How to promote collaboration in your nonprofit

In non-profit organizations, there is a lot of focus on garnering the attention of donors. But what about what your team is doing? A collaborative workforce is essential to the success of a non-profit. In fact, encouraging innovation and communication between team members is probably more crucial for a charity since you're promoting a purpose rather than a product.

Unfortunately, there is a less than ideal reason for organizations to improve this aspect of their business strategy. According to an Accenture study, 69 percent of companies believe the U.S. may lose its entrepreneur lead in the next 10 years unless more efforts are made toward encouraging creativity in employees. Now is the time to implement new strategies to prevent this from happening. Here are three strategies for promoting collaboration among your nonprofit's team members:

1. Reward innovation
The Partnership for Public Service recently analyzed data from the 2014 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government study and the Office of Personnel Management's Federal Employer Viewpoint Survey, which found that innovation can be a difficult skill to harness in organizations. According to the breakout analysis, while 89.8 percent of employees consistently look for ways to more efficiently complete their jobs, only 54.1 percent said they felt encouraged to do so and 32.7 percent believe that creative and innovative initiatives were rewarded by their employers. This demonstrates that employees want to bring fresh ideas to the table, but there's not much motivation fueling those efforts.

Though this was an analysis of government employees, they can represent the mindset of all workers. The analysis revealed that organizations are given a truly effective tool for cultivating inventive strategies - a ready and prepared worker. It's up to the employers and leaders of the company to foster that creativity and innovation.

Fortunately, there are many ways to do this. By consistently implementing upgraded donation software and creating more mobility with nonprofit payment processing, you can demonstrate to your team that your organization values forward-thinking and innovation. Leading by example is an effective option, but you should also reward employers for bringing up their own ideas. You have compassionate minds at your disposal, so use them. Hold brainstorming meetings or internal contests to see who can come up with the most original idea. However, remember to reward both individual ideas and well as team work so employees have a reason to keep an open discussion with one another. In essence, provide an environment for your employees' creativity to flourish.

2. Give employees more freedom
Leading by example doesn't mean controlling everything your employees do. Forbes contributor Jacob Morgan cites "Learn to get out of the way" as one of the 12 principles of collaboration in the workplace. He explains that enforcing every rule and putting too much attention on overseeing your employees, while done with good intentions, can actually hinder their overall performance. Instead, give your staff some space and freedom to let their minds get creative without feeling like they're being watched or judged.

While it might be difficult to let go of the reins, there are some strategies that can help you do it. Consider having an office with an open floor plan, for starters. By removing the separation of walls and doors, you can still effectively monitor the activities of your employees without them feeling trapped or isolated. Plus, an open floor plan allows employees to communicate with one another by simply peeking around their computers. It's easy, then, to bounce ideas off each other, effectively collaborating and strengthening innovative strategies.

Freedom also should apply to conversations they have with you, the employer. Have an open-door policy or set up meetings with employees. Encourage your team members to share feedback, whether it is positive or negative, so you can gain an honest perspective on how to improve your organization. 

3. Focus on the big picture
According to the Accenture study, when employees did share ideas, 85 percent of companies reported those plans were mainly about making internal operations more efficient rather improving the business's bottom line. Though not as beneficial to the organizations' overall goal, it makes sense why workers are offering up these suggestions. They work in the office. They see what internal issues the companies face every day. They fully understand organizational-level problems.

In order to get ideas about external issues, employees need to fully comprehend them. Too often, workers are asked for input without knowing the full scope of the issue. How can they possibly come up with a solution to an obstacle that is not completely clear?  Matt Reilly, managing director at Accenture, explained to USA Today that managers need to clearly define the problem. A full outline of the dilemma should be presented to the team members trying to solve it.

With the right tools and strategies, you can effectively harness innovation and collaboration in your nonprofit organization. Once everyone is on board with the same goals, you'll start seeing new ideas to bolster fundraising efforts. 

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